“You’re not doing your job properly! You’d better go on a course and get it fixed so you can get the problems sorted out!”
Maybe we might not have heard those exact words but the sentiment was not an uncommon view of how learning and development was seen by many not so long ago. Unfortunately, some still hold onto that mindset (and seem genuinely surprised when their errant staffer returns from the course and, inexplicably, hasn’t been fixed!).
Smart leaders, however, understand that today’s knowledge worker responds far more favourably to a more holistic approach to people development. If staff are treated merely as productive units and all that’s required is to ply them with new knowledge and skills and they’ll lift their performance significantly and consistently, great opportunities will be missed.
In a nutshell, it’s not enough just to engage their brain. Dwight Eisenhower once famously said “leadership is the art of getting someone else to do what you want done, because they want to do it”. Clearly, to get them to want to, we must engage the heart along with the head.
If we can create an environment and culture whereby people firstly want to be at work (that would be a great start!) and then really want to be part of something and make a real contribution, we’re onto a winner. Their minds will be open to new ways of looking at challenges and they’ll be so much more receptive to new learning opportunities. They’ll actively seek out ways to grow and innovate because they’ll know that they’ll have the chance to utilise the new skills they develop and the organisation will recognise their contribution.
Look into the early years of companies like Nike, Microsoft and Google. Staff talk of the incredible excitement of being part of something special, something that would have a significant impact on the world at large. Boy, were they engaged! For the vast majority of us, however, those types of opportunities are extremely rare so we need to do what we can to get our people on board and getting stuck in.
But it’s not easy. It’s much more straightforward to simply teach them new skills and insist that they apply them in the prescribed manner. But for some strange reason, it doesn’t seem to work like it used to. Not only do they want to think for themselves, they also want some say in how they should feel and whether they should actually do anything you want them to!
Has the world gone crazy???
So, how do we get our people really engaged and giving the best of their minds and their hearts? By demonstrating to them that we value them as people and not just for what they can do for us on the job. But if that sounds all too touchy feely, don’t worry. If we help people develop in ways that work for them in their lives outside of work, there’s no doubt that will positively impact what they bring to work. Along with a greater sense of loyalty that will pay for itself in spades.
So engage the hearts and the head and everybody wins!